Liberia is now in a period of peace and reconstruction after years of intermittent and violent civil war. More than 250,000 people were killed when Charles Taylor launched a rebellion against the military regime of Samuel Doe during the 1990's. Years of conflict displaced 600,000 of the country’s three million inhabitants and caused widespread human suffering.
The civil conflict ended in 2003 but many people still face challenges. Liberia has the fifth-highest under-five mortality rate in the world. The rate of HIV infection is steadily increasing and access to health care is limited. Liberia's population is nearly four million, but there are only 120 doctors and three dentists in the entire country. There is a great need for professional medical training, dental care, primary health care and community health education.
Medical Teams International has been involved in a West African region-wide epidemic of Ebola (hemorrhagic fevor). The outbreak started in a fairly remote area in Guinea, but quickly spread to parts of Liberia. Although most of the cases have been contained within Guinea and Liberia, there have been suspected cases in areas as far as Mali and Sierra Leone. MTI has been monitoring the situation and supporting health workers in Bong County near the epicenter of the epidemic as well as general support for Liberia’s Ministry of Health. “A dangerous situation like this takes a lot of coordination and careful education of the public,” says Country Director, Andrew Hoskins.
MTI’s support has included:
- Education: Coordinating a training for health workers to have general knowledge of Ebola, how to quickly triage patients to determine who needs urgent attention, what to do with suspected cases, and most importantly how to protect yourself from contracting the disease.
- Purchasing Supplies:
- Protective supplies (gloves, masks, etc…)
- Infection prevention materials (bleach, sanitizers, soap, etc…)
- Laboratory equipment for sample transport (syringes, sample containers, test tubes, etc…)
- Communication: Helping with communication of the current situation from the central level (capital city) to the ground level where we are working.
- Transportation: Using MTI vehicles and motorcycles to transport rapid response teams and surveillance teams.